Edward G. (Edward Gay) Mason.

Chapters from Illinois history; online

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actually accomplished that of which Champlain and
Nicolet and Radisson were the heralds, and, historically
speaking, was the first to see the wonderful region of the
prairies. At the head of the roll of those indissolubly
associated with the land of the Illinois, who have trod
its soil, must forever stand the name of Louis JOLLIET. 1M


Marquette 's promise that some one of the brethren
should follow him at the Illinois mission 1 did not long
remain unfulfilled. His predecessor at the mission on
Lake Superior, 2 Father Claude Allouez, was his successor
at that of Kaskaskia on the upper Illinois. In that noble
band of Catholic priests who braved every hardship to
plant their faith among the western savages, Allouez was
conspicuous. Many pages of the Jesuit relations bear
witness to the endurance, devotion and zeal which won
for him the title of Apostle of all the nations of the Otta-
was. 8 Born at St. Didier in France in 1613, he studied
at the college of the Jesuits in Le Puy, where he and his


elder brother joined the order. At Toulouse he passed
his novitiate, and obtained from his provincial superior,
by earnest supplication, leave to go to the missions of
New France, which permission he regarded as a special
mark of divine favor. Embarking in the same ship
with M. d'Argenson, Governor of Canada, they were
more than a year on the way, the vessel being driven into
one of the ports of Ireland by stress of weather and
obliged to return to France. They only reached their
destination on July u, 1658.* Having served for a time
as superior at Three Rivers, and applied himself dili-
gently to the study of the native tongues, Allouez com-
menced his mission, as he says, with one Iroquois whom
he found wounded and a prisoner at Montreal, and per-
suaded to pass his last three days of life as a good Chris-
tian. 5 In 1665 he accompanied a band of barbarian
Ottawas on their return from the settlements to their
distant homes in the wilds of Lake Superior, that he
might make Christianity known in that vast region. 6
Full two years passed before any word came from him,
and he had been given up for lost 7 by his brethren at
Quebec, when their mourning was turned to joy by the
news of his safety and the receipt of his graphic journal
of his wondrous experience. From this it appeared that
after suffering incredible privations on his perilous jour-
ney with only Indian companions, and gross ill treatment
at their hands, he had at length arrived at the Sault Ste.
Marie. From this point he had explored the whole south
shore of Lake Superior in his canoe, instituted the Mis-
sion of the Holy Ghost at La Pointe, visited the Nipis-
sings on a lake north of Superior, and found consolation
for all his trials in the thought that he had carried the
cross to more than twenty heathen tribes, among whom


some good Christians would thereafter shine like stars in
the black night of infidelity. 8

In the summer of 1667 he returned to Quebec for aid in
this great field, and remaining but two days, 9 embarked
again for Lake Superior with Father Louis Nicolas and a
lay brother, and resumed his noble labor at La Pointe. 10
Two years later he made once more the long and weary
journey to Quebec to put into Governor Courcelle's hands
some Iroquois prisoners, whom Allouez himself had ran-
somed from the Ottawas, and to demand from his order
more soldiers of the cross for his grand campaign. 11 He
returned with Father Claude Dablon, who was appointed
Superior of the Western Mission, and Jacques Marquette
soon followed and took up the work at La Pointe.
Allouez went to the Lake of the Illinois, now Lake Mich-
igan, whose present name appears for the first time in
his journal under the form of Machihiganing, and
founded at La Baye des Puans, the present Green Bay,
the Mission of St. Frangois Xavier in December, 1669.
The next spring he journeyed among the tribes on the
Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, where the villages of Allouez
and Alloa still commemorate his name. 12 In the follow-
ing September he returned from a trip to Sault Ste.
Marie with Dablon, and they two ascended the Fox River
to the country of the Fire Nation, or Mascoutens. At
the Kakaling rapid on their way, they came upon an idol
of rock shaped like a man, decorated and worshiped by
the savages. The sturdy priests regarded this as a visible
sign of the great adversary, and hurled it to the bottom
of the river to be seen no more. 13 These visits led to the
establishment of the missions of St. James among the
Mascoutens, whose village was near the site of Berlin, Wis-
consin and of St. Mark among the Foxes on Wolf River. 14


In 1671 Allouez was summoned to Sault Ste. Marie, to
attend the formal taking possession of the country for
France by St. Lusson, and his name appears among the
official witnesses of that imposing ceremony. 18 On this
occasion he made an address to the awe-stricken natives,
being selected, says the chronicler, because his knowl-
edge of their language and customs would enable him to
give them an idea of the grandeur of that incomparable
monarch, Louis the Fourteenth. Allouez justified his
selection by a panegyric upon his sovereign, which was
received by the assembled warriors with admiration and
surprise that there could be a man upon earth so great, so
rich and so powerful as the King of France. 18 The mis-
sionary returned to his Wisconsin field, raised a lofty
cross at the Fox village as a sign that he took pos-
session of the lands of the infidels in the name of Jesus
Christ, and looked forward in hope to the spread of his
faith even to the famous river named Mississippi, and
perchance as far as the South Sea. 17 Hence he was sum-
moned to the Illinois Mission to fill the vacancy made by
the death of Marquette, and responded like a soldier tak-
ing the place of a comrade fallen in battle. 18 In the bark
huts of La Pointe, and by the rapids of Sainte Marie,
Allouez and Marquette had planned and prayed for this
mission in the land of the Illinois, and it was very fitting
that one should succeed the other there.

Allouez embarked from St. Francois Xavier in Octo-
ber, 1676, with two companions in a canoe, intending to
winter with the Illinois. Soon the ice which formed early
in the season prevented their progress, and they were
delayed until February. Then fitting their little craft
with sails, they skimmed the frozen surface of La Baye
des Puans in this improvised ice boar, made the portage


of a league and a half from the very deep bay since
named Sturgeon, and on the eve of St. Joseph, the patron
of all Canada, found themselves on the waters of Lake
Michigan. They gave it the name of that great saint,
and resolved thenceforth to call it Lake St. Joseph, but
the white man's baptism proved ineffectual, and never
supplanted the red man's title. They advanced, coast-
ing along vast prairies stretching away beyond their
sight, occasionally seeing trees standing in such regular
order that they seemed to have been planted to form
shady alleys, and near these, little streams and herds of
deer feeding quietly on the young grass. As the good
priest gazed at the shores of the long-looked- for land, he
tells us that he often said, "Benedicite Opera Domini
Domino." In April, 1677, the party entered at last "the
river which leads to the Illinois," undoubtedly the
stream now flowing through Chicago. Upon the site of
this city they met eighty Indians of the country, whose
chief came towards them, with a firebrand in one hand
and in the other a feathered calumet, in which he lit the
tobacco and presented the pipe of peace to the lips of
Allouez, who was obliged to pretend to smoke. The
chief led him to his wigwam, gave him the place of
honor, and begged him to go to the village of this band,
which apparently was at some distance from the mouth
of the river, and probably near the portage where Mar-
quette had passed the winter of 1675. 19 Allouez, consent-
ing, remained with them a little time, and then pushed
on to his goal at Kaskaskia, the great town of the Illi-
nois, then situated about four miles below the present
city of Ottawa on the Illinois River, 80 which he reached on
April 27th, and entered the cabin in which Marquette
had lodged. Eight tribes were now gathered here, who


received the missionaries' instructions with favor and
looked on reverently, while on the $d of May, the feast
of the Holy Cross, he erected in the midst of the town a
cross twenty-five feet high to take possession of these
tribes also in the name of Jesus Christ. Allouez had
made this journey only to acquire the necessary informa-
tion for the perfect establishment of the mission, and
soon returned to La Baye des Puans, leaving the Illinois
eager to see him again. 81

The following year he came among them prepared for
a two years' stay, and entered zealously upon the work of
the conversion of these tribes. But, in 1679, he retired
to his Wisconsin mission upon hearing of the approach
of La Salle, who believed that the Jesuits were unfriendly
to him, and that Allouez in particular had sought to
defeat his plans. 22 This state of things illustrates the
change which was already occurring in this newly- found
land. The era of the discoverer and the missionary was
giving place to that of the explorer and the colonist,
whose prototype was La Salle.

The great man who now appears upon the scene was
born in Rouen, the ancient capital of Normandy. A
parish register there preserved records the christening
of Robert Cavelier on the 226. day of November, 1643, in
the church of Saint Herbland, which once stood within a
stone's throw of the noble cathedral of that venerable
city. 23 It is supposed that his family owned a landed
estate called La Salle, and that from this the youth took
the name which was to supersede that given him in bap-
tism. 24 His full signature was Robert Rene Cavelier,
Sieur de La Salle, but he dropped one appellation after
another until he used only the title by which he will be
forever known, and signed himself simply De La Salle. 25


At the age of twenty-three he came to Canada and
obtained the grant of a seignory on the island of Montreal
at the place afterwards called Lachine. Here he heard
the Indian tales of a mighty river far to the westward, and
dreamed of a waterway to China, and hence he embarked
in July, 1669, on his first voyage to the West, with two
priests, De Galine'e and De Casson, from whom he parted
company at the west end of Lake Ontario. 8 ' During the
next two years La Salle was incessantly traversing the
wilderness, sometimes with Frenchmen, sometimes with
Indians only, and sometimes alone, "with no other
guide" says one who knew him well, "than a compass
and his own genius." It is quite certain that in this
period he discovered the Ohio and followed it to the
rapids at the site of Louisville. It is claimed that he
discovered the Illinois River also, and was the first of
white men to visit the place where Chicago stands, but
the evidence does not warrant this assumption. 87 At all
events these explorations revealed to La Salle the
character of the country south of the Great Lakes, and it
is possible that while engaged in them he reached some
portion of the prairie land. In his memorial presented
to the king in 1678, when he had himself made no western
journey, except in these years, La Salle speaks like an
eye-witness of the region to the west and south of the
Lake of the Illinois. He describes it as "so beautiful
and so fertile, so free from forests, and so well supplied
with prairies, brooks and rivers, so abounding in fish,
game and venison, that one can find there in plenty and
with little trouble all that is needed for the support of
flourishing colonies there." 28 These colonies he resolved
to plant in that fair land and to win for France a new



The Jesuits opposed La Salle because they wished to
be both church and state among the natives, and the
Canadian merchants were hostile because they desired
a monopoly of trade. But Count Frontenac, Governor
General of Canada, was his friend, and a visit to France
in 1675 secured his grant of a seignory at the entrance
to Lake Frontenac, now Ontario. 89 Here La Salle
built a stone fort, armed it with cannon and named it
after his patron Fort Frontenac. 80 From this point it is
probable that in 1677 he sent a party to obtain informa-
tion concerning the region west of Lake Michigan, under
the leadership of Michel Ako, a native of Poitou. This
hardy explorer visited the Illinois country in the spring
of 1678, and thus early must his name be associated with
the region in which he was in later years to find a home. 81
La Salle made his new post the base of his operations,
but for their successful prosecution he required further
royal authority. Going again to France in the autumn
of 1677, he obtained from Louis XIV authority to make
discoveries and to build forts in the western parts of New
France, through which it was believed a way might be
found to Mexico. He returned in September, 1678, with
a small party enlisted in his service, and among them
was one man who was equal to an army. 88 Henri de
Tonty, born in Italy, but long a soldier of France,
became La Salle 's most devoted friend and most trusted
lieutenant, and deserves to have a place in the annals of
the West second only to that of his great commander.
Tonty 's father, once governor of the Italian city of
Gaeta, was concerned with his son in a revolt at Naples
against the Spanish rule. They took refuge from polit-
ical troubles in France, where the elder Tonty became
eminent as a financier and originated the Tontine form


of life insurance which perpetuates his name. The son
served two years in the French army as a cadet, then
made seven expeditions on ships of war and galleys in
the marine service, and rejoined the land forces at Mes-
sina, where he became lieutenant to the commander of
twenty thousand soldiers. When the enemy attacked the
post of Libisso, his right hand was shot away by a gren-
ade, and he was taken prisoner. Exchanged after six
months captivity, he went to France and received a grant
of three hundred livres from the King. Returning to the
field he made a campaign in Sicily as a volunteer, and at
the peace which soon followed was deprived of employ-
ment by the discharge of the troops. Coming to Paris to
seek occupation, he attracted the favorable notice of
Prince Conti, who recommended him to La Salle. Such,
in brief, is the history of Tonty prior to his arrival in that
new world in which he was to play such a prominent
part. 88 La Salle lay ill at Quebec for six weeks after his
landing, upon which he had sent a canoe express to
Frontenac for news of his affairs. It brought back a
letter from Michel Ako and his comrades informing him
that they had discovered copper in their wanderings, and
had reached the land of the Illinois in the preceding
spring, and had traded with the natives for a quantity of
buffalo skins. 3 * From his sick bed he issued orders for a
party of fifteen to set out in canoes laden with valuable
merchandise, to go to the Illinois in the neighborhood of
the Mississippi to establish friendly relations with those
savages, and to gather supplies in anticipation of his com-
ing to prosecute his discoveries. A second advance party
was sent to the Niagara River under La Motte de Lus-
siere, another recruit just arrived from France. Louis
Hennepin, a friar of the Recollet order, obtained leave


to go with them, and thus became the first of Europeans
to behold the mighty cataract of which he wrote the ear-
liest published description. La Salle accompanied by
Tonty soon followed, and while treating with the Seneca
Indians for leave to build a vessel above the falls and a
fort at the mouth of the river, his pilot disobeyed his
express orders and caused the shipwreck of the vessel
containing the outfit of the expedition. Undismayed by
this great misfortune, the dauntless leader established his
second fortified post upon the high point now occupied
by Fort Niagara, and gave it the name of his friend, the
Prince de Conti. Then leaving Tonty, as his lieutenant,
to complete the construction of a schooner above the
falls, he returned to Fort Frontenac to replace the equip-
ment so needlessly destroyed, making the journey of two
hundred and fifty miles on foot in mid-winter over the
ice of Lake Ontario. His preparations completed, the
summer of 1679 found La Salle again at Niagara. Tonty
had finished the vessel which was named Le Griffon in
allusion to the arms of Count Frontenac, which had two
griffins as supporters. On August jth they embarked,
in the presence of several Iroquois warriors and their
prisoners just brought from the Illinois country, on Lake
Conti, which we call Lake Erie, in this tiny craft of
forty-five tons burthen. 85 She was the pioneer of our lake
marine, and it was perhaps a prophetic circumstance that
above the flying griffin on her prow was carved an eagle,
the symbol of the nation yet unborn, of whose vast com-
merce she was a forerunner.

Arrived at Mackinac, where Le Griffon rode at anchor
amid a hundred bark canoes, La Salle was extremely dis-
appointed at meeting the greater part of his advance
party, whom he supposed to have long since established


themselves among the Illinois. They had lost faith in
the enterprise, and had halted at this place, where they
had wasted and consumed his supplies, and six had
deserted, taking valuable merchandise with them. Two
of these recreants were reported to be at Sault Ste.
Marie, and La Salle promptly sent Tonty with six men
in pursuit of them. Tonty, in his account of this expe-
dition, says, with military brevity: "M. de La Salle sent
me to the Sault Ste. Marie, thirty leagues away, to look
for the said deserters. I left on the 2pth, and having
taken the said deserters I brought them with me to Mis-
sillimackinac, where I arrived the 17 th of September."
La Salle had already sailed, leaving orders for Tonty to
join him at the mouth of the River of the Miamis, now the
St. Joseph. At the entrance to Green Bay, on Pottawat-
tamie Island, inhabited by Indians of that name, La Salle
was agreeably surprised to find Michel Ako with his party
who had visited the Illinois and brought thence a quan-
tity of valuable peltries. He resolved to send his vessel
back in charge of the pilot with five men to discharge
part of her cargo at Mackinac, and the peltries at the
storehouse he had built at the head of Lake Erie, and
to return to Mackinac, there to await his further direc-
tions. On September i8th Le Griffon fired a farewell
salute, and with a favoring breeze from the west-
ward set sail on the voyage which was to prove her final
one. 86

La Salle pushed on with fourteen men, among whom
were the three friars, Louis Hennepin, Zenobe Membre"
and Gabriel de La Ribourde, along the western shore of
Lake Michigan, called by him Lake Dauphin. The party
traveled in four canoes, which frail craft, besides the
human freight, were deeply laden with a forge and its


appurtenances, carpenter's and sawyer's tools, arms and
merchandise. A terrible storm at the outset caused sad
forebodings for the fate of the vessel, and delayed them
for days. Great gales impeded their progress, failure of
provisions brought them almost to the starvation point,
and encounters with occasional bands of Indians com-
pelled them to stand to their arms until the calumet
which the Pottawattamies of Green Bay had given La
Salle brought peace and concord. For a time they
coasted the high bluffs which afforded them hardly a place
to land, but as their little fleet advanced towards the
south they found the country always more beautiful and
the climate more temperate, with a great abundance of
game. 37 They had reached at last the land of the Illinois,
to which La Salle probably made his first visit in the
night encampments of this part of the journey, and one
of these may well have been on the site of Chicago. At
the foot of Lake Michigan, they fell in with a party of
one hundred and twenty-five savages of the Outagami
tribe from the Fox River of Green Bay. Their petty
thefts from the Frenchmen at night provoked prompt
action from La Salle, who seized one of their chiefs and
threatened to put him to death unless the stolen goods
were restored. The savages showed fight, but quickly
yielded and made full redress. Then becoming very
friendly, they urged La Salle to remain with them, tell-
ing him that the Illinois had resolved to massacre the
French because their Iroquois prisoners had informed
them that Frenchmen had counseled the Five Nations
to make war on the prairie tribes. La Salle suspected
that his enemies were at work, but resolved to pursue
his route, and thanking the Outagamies, told them that
he did not fear the Illinois, and that he knew he would


bring them to reason by friendship or by force. Then
skirting the southern end of the lake, he came on the ist
of November to the river mouth, which he had appointed
as the place of rendezvous with Tonty. 38

All was silent about the natural harbor into which the
St. Joseph flows, and no sign of man was seen. The
trusty lieutenant, with the twenty men, who were to
come from Mackinac along the eastern shore of Lake
Michigan, had not arrived. La Salle's party wished to
hasten on to the Illinois country before the approaching
winter set in, but their leader would not desert his rear
guard. To occupy his men, he fortified a triangular
eminence at the entrance of the stream with squared
beams and palisades, naming the post Fort Miami, and
constructed near by a bark chapel for the priests, and a
storehouse for the goods which he still expected his ves-
sel to bring. For her safety he sounded the channel,
planting at its approach tall poles made conspicuous by
bear-skin pendants, and lining its course with buoys, and
sent two men to Mackinac to guide her to this haven.
On the twelfth of the month Tonty arrived with one-half
of his companions, leaving the remainder to secure pro-
visions by hunting, and bringing the ominous news that
Le Griffon had not touched at Mackinac, nor had she
been heard of anywhere along the lake. La Salle lin-
gered until the last moment, still hoping to see the long-
looked-for sail appear, while Tonty went back for the
remainder of his force. 89

At the distance of eight leagues his canoe upset, and he
with his comrades barely reached the shore. All their
supplies being lost, they retraced their course, and living
for three days upon acorns, found their way to the fort
again. Here the commander, hanging letters to the


trees with instructions for the pilot, if he should yet
come, reluctantly gave the order on December $d to
embark upon the quiet waters of the River of the Miamis.
The ice beginning to form in the stream threatened to
bar the way to the Illinois, and La Salle could not wait
longer for Tonty's hunting party. Two of them
deserted, but the remainder soon followed the main
body, which paddled steadily up the river seventy miles
or more. They were seeking the now historic portage,
at the point where the River St. Joseph, which has
retained the name that Allouez endeavored to confer
upon Lake Michigan, makes its nearest approach, in its
great curve from south to north, to the headwaters of
the Kankakee. They went beyond it, and were recalled
by the Mohegan, who had been absent hunting, and
brought word that the rest of Tonty's men were waiting
for them at the proper crossing. This was very near the
site of the present oity of South Bend, Indiana, west of
which a little lake forms one source of the Kankakee, dis-
tant barely three miles from the St. Joseph, with marshy
ground intervening. At this portage the whole party
assembled, twenty-nine Frenchmen in all, and one Indian
called Le Loup, the Mohegan hunter, and traversed the
plain dreary with the bones and carcasses of buffalo, find-
ing on its western verge a mixed village of savages of the
Miami, Mascouten and Ouiatenon tribes. La Salle, with
pathetic trust in the coming of those in the vessel,

Online LibraryEdward G. (Edward Gay) MasonChapters from Illinois history; → online text (page 4 of 25)